Samsen Villa: By Neil Robinson
Excellent Thai food in a romantic location
This review is subtitled “Excellent Thai food,” which is a
bit misleading, because the restaurant also has an extensive
Italian menu. Indeed, friends have recommended the Italian
food, but since I have never tried it here, I am going to
stick to reviewing that which I have eaten and enjoyed, the
The history of Samsen Villa as a Thai restaurant goes back
30 years, although it only opened on its present site last
month. The new location is where La Gondola used to be,
between Rimping Condo and the Ping river. The restaurant
includes a pleasant garden, with lawn, flowers and fountain.
There is an elegant building, rather in the style of a
Victorian conservatory, where you can dine indoors. Outdoor
dining is on a terrace between the conservatory and garden,
on one side, and a walkway along the river bank on the
other. Sitting at an outdoor table reminded me of being in
Europe. You look out over a river walk shaded by trees
towards a peaceful river. Benches on the walkway are
occupied by young couples. You might be in Paris or Oxford.
I ate there recently with a Thai friend. We drank one of
their specialities, the freeze beer. This is not a type of
beer, (we drank Singha), but an interesting way of serving
it. When first poured out, it filled the glass with a stiff
(presumably frozen) foam. If you do not want beer (frozen or
otherwise), there is also a substantial cocktail and wine
For food, we started with the sun-dried sirloin strips (80
baht), which go well with cold beer. These were crispy on
the outside and a little chewy on the inside, with a savory
and lightly spiced flavour. Then came a fried catfish spicy
salad (120 baht). This is one of my favourite Thai dishes.
The meat of the fish was finely shredded and crisply fried.
It came with a sauce containing peanuts, mango, chili, herbs
and spices which was hot, sour and sweet all at the same
time, and with a scent of mangoes. The catfish really has to
be eaten with the sauce to get the full, complex mix of
flavours. We followed this with two further dishes,
delicious soft shell crab spiced with curry powder and
golden needle mushrooms in oyster sauce. As you bit into the
crab, it was crispy, with the inside tender, and with an
appetizing, spicy, but not hot, curry flavour. The mushrooms
were fine, but were the least interesting dish we tried.
Finally, I switched cuisine to have an Italian dessert, a
good tiramisu (100 baht).
The final price was just over 400 baht per person, including
the 5% service charge, which seemed very reasonable in view
of the quality and amount of what we had eaten and drunk. We
left a bit more than that, because the attentive service was
certainly worth more than 5%. I only have two suggestions
for things they could improve as they settle into their new
home. The restaurant states they only use Thai music. I am
not a fan of loud background music, but from where we sat we
could not hear any at all. Soft background music would add
to the romance of the location. Finally, the outside tables
have brown leatherette table cloths. Something a bit
prettier would go much better with the ambience.
To get there from the city, drive out on the Doi Saket road
(118) across the Nakornping bridge. Take the first left
after the bridge and then turn left again almost
immediately, down an alley beside and just before the
Rimping Condo building. There is ample parking in a lot on
your left. From there it is a short walk to the restaurant
on your right. The web site is www.samsenvilla-chiangmai.com
and the telephone number is 053-306-588. I always appreciate
readers’ comments on reviews and recommendations for places
to review, so I hope you’ll send them to me at:
Korean Cucumber Salad
Korean cuisine does tend to be a little
specialized, and the “kim gi” sour pickles in particular. However, this recipe
is for a slightly hot cucumber salad. Where you usually associate cucumbers with
counteracting spicy food, this salad has both chilli oil and garlic.
Rinse the cucumbers under running water, then chop off the
ends and grate coarsely into a medium sized bowl. Pour 50 ml of water over the
cucumber and sprinkle with the salt. Stir to mix well and set aside, allowing it
to stand for 30 minutes. Then strain off the water and chill the cucumber in the
refrigerator for another 30 minutes.
In another bowl, mix the herb vinegar, sugar, chilli oil, garlic and chopped
Take the cucumber out from the chiller, drain any excess liquid and then pour
the vinegar/sugar/chilli/garlic/spring onions mixture over the top and serve
Serves 2-4 as appetizer
Red chilli oil
Garlic clove (crushed)
Spring onions (finely chopped) 2
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